Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has criticised the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s plans for the environment in the Spring Statement, with Lucas stating they amounted to “procrastination” and were “littered with contradictions”.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday (13 March), Hammond unveiled the latest update on the nation’s finances, an announcement that was somewhat overshadowed by the Brexit tumult that continues to engulf Parliament and is growing to a crescendo as the deadline for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 29 March draws ever closer.
Among commitments to create a £3-billion scheme to build around 30,000 new affordable homes and to provide free sanitary products to colleges, the Chancellor dedicated a sizeable section of the Statement to clean growth and how the UK can decarbonize its economy, building on its commitments made in the Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan.
During the Statement, Hammond said: “The challenge of shaping a carbon-neutral economy of the future is pressing.
"We must apply the creativity of the marketplace to one of the most complex problems of our time – climate change – and build sustainability into the heart of our economic model.
“Our challenge is to demonstrate to the next generation that our market economy can fulfil their aspirations and align with their values. Housing and the environment are two issues dear to them."
A call for evidence on a business energy efficiency scheme to explore how the government can support small businesses invest in energy efficiency measures;
Mandating net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity;
Advancing the decarbonisation of gas supplies by increasing the proportion of green gas in the National Grid to reduce dependence on natural gas;
Introducing a Future Homes Standard by 2025 to ensure new-build homes are future-proofed with low-carbon heating and energy efficiency;
Launching a global review into the economic benefits of biodiversity;
A call for evidence on Offsetting Transport Emissions to explore consumer understanding of journey emissions and whether travel providers should be required to off carbon offsets to their customers; and
Supporting the call from the Ascension Island Council to designate 443,000 square kilometres around the island as a Marine Protected Area.
However, environmental campaigners, including Caroline Lucas, have reacted with disappointment at the commitments, decrying the limited nature of the announcement.
Calls for urgent action on climate change have increased significantly since the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report stating that global temperature rises must be limited to no more than 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels within 12 years to avoid a significant worsening of the impacts of climate change.
In response to this, a number of local authorities and city councils around the world have taken it upon themselves to declare a Climate Emergency, including Bristol and London in the UK, while schoolchildren around the world have been participating in climate strikes to try and force governments to declare a Climate Emergency.
Commenting on the Spring Statement, Caroline Lucas said: “In an effort to see off the rising tide of youth activism, for once the Chancellor acknowledged the climate crisis and the collapse of wildlife and insect populations around the world. But it’s clear he doesn’t recognise their urgency.
“His announcements of yet more consultations and calls for evidence amount to nothing but procrastination. And his global review of the economic benefits of biodiversity suggests he can only comprehend the wonder of the natural world if it’s reduced to a shopping list.
“The Chancellor’s statement was littered with contradictions. He announced energy efficiency standards for new homes, which his party scrapped in 2015. He wants travel providers to offer carbon offsets, while he builds new runways. And he paid lip service to biodiversity, without mentioning his devastating cuts to Natural England.
“If this government was serious about securing our futures, this would have been a climate emergency Spring Statement. The Chancellor would have launched a Green New Deal, announcing unprecedented investment to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and supporting local authorities to transform local energy and transport networks.
“Now is not the time for reviews and obfuscation – now is the time to transform our economy so it restores the natural world, instead of commodifying and consuming it.”